Agnieszka Magdalena Bystron

Agnieszka Magdalena Bystron

PhD fellow

My research focuses on one of the most ubiquitous and culturally informative material from archaeological work: ceramics.

The data used in my doctoral thesis come from the large-scale excavations in north Qatar at the abandoned town of Al Zubarah and the smaller satellite settlements of Qal`at Murair and Freiha.

The excavation project was launched in 2009, a collaboration between the Qatar Islamic Archaeology and Heritage Project (QIAH) and the University of Copenhagen, with the aim of examining the Islamic archaeology and cultural heritage of northern Qatar.

 Early modern Qatar had a central role in the formation of long-distance trade relationships – most clearly evidenced by the ceramics excavated at Al Zubarah. The town preserves one of the most complete urban layout dating to the 18th and 19th centuries in the region, and its unique position provides important opportunities to analyse widespread trading and cultural links of the Indian Ocean, Africa, Europe and the Far East via the medium of ceramics. Now abandoned, the town was not only a merchant and pearl trading centre, but, for a short while, one of the most important political and cultural centres in the greater Gulf region. The historical events that contributed to the wealth of the town are reflected in the pottery assemblages.

Previous examination of the pottery assemblages from Al Zubarah has given only a general insight into the complex social, cultural and economic complexities underlying the composition of the town.

My thesis will present a ceramic profile of Al Zubarah in the later 18th and earlier 19th centuries, when the town was at its apex, with reference to other assemblages from contemporary sites in the Gulf. The study will provide a much-needed typo-chronological framework from which to address critical questions concerning the importation and use, as well as the cultural implications of this material.

The project also aims to provide valuable insights into the economic relationship between the town and its extensive hinterland, and critically analyse the diverse and often unconnected work on ceramics from other sites in the Gulf.

The objective of my doctoral thesis is to define and evaluate questions of connectivity and international maritime commerce in early modern Qatar, which promises to challenge prevailing views on social and cultural systems in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf during the 18th and 19th centuries. The results will bring new light on the crucial period of rapid socio-political change in the lead-up to the rise of the modern Gulf. 

Professional experience

2005 - 2009   Senior Archaeologist, Museum of London Archaeology

2010            Senior Archaeologist, Çatalhöyük Research Project, Turkey

2010 - 2015   Ceramist, Al-Zubarah, Qatar, University of Copenhagen





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